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Hush

Year: 2016
Production Co: Intrepid Pictures
Director: Mike Flanagan
Producer: Jason Blum
Writer: Mike Flanagan/Kate Siegel
Cast: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr

After seeing what Mike Flanagan can do with a stripped back idea on a small scale (Gerald's Game) and how he stumbles/is overtaken by the studio committee (Doctor Sleep), I had high hopes for this film because it looked like what he does best – an interesting premise with only a couple of characters in an enclosed space that becomes part of the story, a place where tension and the psychology of fear is given as much room to breathe as ghosts, monsters or jump scares (see Don't Breathe for another great example).

Hush isn't quite as good as Gerald's Game because the execution doesn't quite live up to the promise and it feels like the script runs out of ideas a little bit here and there, but it's still effective.

Kate Siegel is Maddie, a successful hearing-impaired writer who comes to a secluded cabin in the woods to work on her next book (a tome she's having trouble cracking), a place where her only neighbours are a stone's throw away.

For no reason other than dramatic tension, there's a masked lunatic hanging around (John Gallagher Jr). He brutally dispatches the young woman who lives near Maddie right outside her door, all while Maddie is oblivious to the sounds of screams and terror she can't hear.

Then comes an effective sequence where the killer reveals to her that he's watching from only feet away by sending photos from her dead neighbour's phone, and after Maddie desperately locks all the doors and windows it's a game of cat and mouse of her trapped inside, trying to think of a way out to get help without the killer catching her.

We've actually seen the central premise in movies as diverse as ATM, 47 Meters Down and countless others – all that's left is for Flanagan (as writer and director) to structure set pieces, buildups and payoffs as eloquently as the theme requires.

He mostly does so, staging several armrest-gripping scenes of Maddie trying to climb out onto the roof, scale down the wall and run, or of the earlier victim's boyfriend coming home and the killer posing as an undercover cop while Maddie desperately tries to signal him of the danger from inside. There are also a couple of cool ideas that trade quite terrifyingly on Maddie being deaf and the maniac being able to exploit it.

It's well made and effective even if the parts don't quite add up to the whole – you'll be hard pressed a few weeks later to remember the details – but there's some good staging where the geography of the space and the activity within it is well communicated, and it was a clear signal Flanagan was one to watch.

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